Being Changed · Food Allergy Family · Joy · Snacks · Top 8 Allergen Free · Vegan

Acceptance and Cheeze Chompers

“Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them.”

Romans 14:3 (NLT)

Dear Joey,

“Mommy–when I get big and outgrow my allergies, I want to have Goldfish because they are yummy.”

The Goobies sat eating breakfast while I packed lunchboxes before school. Bags of Goldfish sat on the counter. Emery watched me tuck them into his sisters’ lunches, just like every day. His comment didn’t surprise me: I can’t blame him for wanting to eat them someday too. He thinks all the other kids eat them all the time, and he feels left out.

“You know, I hardly ever ate Goldfish crackers when I was a kid. I didn’t really like them much” I tell him casually, hoping to downplay the appeal of the common childhood snack.

None of the Goobies believed me even though every word was true.

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“Let’s make our own dairy free version today!” I said, trying to redirect Emery’s attention.

“We can do that?” Emery asked, puzzled. Intrigued.

“Of course we can.”

I zipped up lunchboxes and herded the Goobies into the car. After the girls were settled at school, the boy and I set to work mixing together gluten free flour, vegan cheddar shreds, vegan buttery spread and a smattering of seasonings to make our own version of crunchy little crackers. When we were done, he took my face in his hands and kissed my cheek, telling me very sincerely, “I love you.”

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Emery tends toward contempt when he sees other people safely eating foods his body doesn’t tolerate. A deep sense of injustice tempts him to throw fits and get angry, yelling “IT’S NOT FAIR!” instead of graciously conceding that foods he cannot eat are safe and healthy for most folks.

We are working to help him understand the fact that he’s right: food allergies are not fair. But our acceptance of them is not a matter of approval. Acceptance is a matter of attitude.

And in our family, we choose joy.

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Even when life is hard and things don’t go our way and we can’t have what we want, we choose joy. We posture our hearts in submission to the Lord because he is the giver of life (Acts 17:25), and life is about more than food (Matthew 6:25). Accepting food allergies does not mean we surrender the fight: accepting them means we choose joy in the thick of the battle.

“What should we call these crackers, bud?” I asked. “They kinda look like teeth, don’t they?”

“Cheeze Chompers.”

I imagine Emery still dreams of a day when he can rip open a crinkly bag of store-bought Goldfish just like other kids do. He believes wholeheartedly  he will see healing on this side of heaven. Until then, we have a fun alternative that puts a smile on his face and helps him remember joy is everywhere, waiting to wink at us.



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This picture makes my heart burst with joy. Emery loved these crackers so much he ate half the pan before I had time to snap a picture of them! The Pioneer Woman’s Cheese Straws inspired me to try my hand at dairy free snack crackers a few years ago when Emery was still a toddler. That first attempt was good, but this attempt was better– good enough to share here for anyone interested in making an at-home version of cheezy snack crackers that will make their own children cheer. Not a food allergy family? Use regular all-purpose flour, regular cheddar cheese, and good old fashioned butter. Food allergy families: if soy is on your “no” list, use soy-free vegan buttery spread and check the label of your dairy free cheese to ensure your batch is free from the top 8 allergens.

  • 1 cup all purpose gluten free flour blend (such as Namaste brand, or my own favorite homemade blend)
  • 4 ounces Follow Your Heart Vegan Cheddar Shreds (or your own preferred brand of vegan cheese)
  •  1/4 cup cold Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Spread (use soy free or regular)
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In the large bowl of a food processor, add all ingredients except the water. Put on the cover and pulse until the buttery spread and vegan cheese combines with the flour and resembles course sand. Turn the motor on low and drizzle in the cold water and let mix until the dough begins to come together and forms a ball. The dough should be moist, but not sticky.

Turn the dough out onto a clean surface sprinkled with potato starch and roll it out to about 1/8″ thick.

Using a small medicine cup, cut the dough as if you were cutting out cookies. Press the open end of the medicine cup all the way through the dough until a circle is cut. Do this over and over again until you use up all the dough. Gather up the remaining dough into a ball; roll it out again, and cut more circles. Do this until there isn’t any dough left. Next, use a crinkle cut tool to cut each circle in half. Spread the shapes out evenly on the baking tray, then slip them into the oven to bake.

Bake for 15-18 minutes (18 minutes is perfect in our oven). Let cool on the pans for several minutes. The crackers will get crunchier as they cool. Store in an airtight container–if your kids don’t gobble them up immediately!







Dinner · Learning from Mistakes · Love & Marriage

The Real Hero and Chicken Pot Pie

10 Last of all I want to remind you that your strength must come from the Lord’s mighty power within you. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand safe against all strategies and tricks of Satan. 12 For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against persons without bodies—the evil rulers of the unseen world, those mighty satanic beings and great evil princes of darkness who rule this world; and against huge numbers of wicked spirits in the spirit world.

13 So use every piece of God’s armor to resist the enemy whenever he attacks, and when it is all over, you will still be standing up.

Ephesians 6: 10-13 (TLB)

Dear Joey,

Snow fell unseasonably early last week. You kissed me and we watched it quietly fall while you held my hand in your own.

It’s all a little bit like Snow White tonight: the white snow. Crimson blood. A warm hearth on a cold night. Pies.

I giggled in spite of myself and the grumpiness inside of me eased a little bit. You had a point: several elements of that story were present in the tale that we watched unfold in our kitchen that night, but in our version I was far more like the Evil Queen than Snow White herself.

My attitude was atrocious: everything seemed to be working against me from the moment I picked the girls up from school. Mia was pale and floppy and I panicked a little when I looked into her glassy eyes that lent credibility to my suspicions. I panicked about having a sick child at home the next day when I was committed to running Addie’s classroom Halloween party and I let my imagination run away with me, suddenly believing Addie’s teacher would think the worst about me if I had to stay home with my sick child. Then there was Addie who would be brokenhearted if I failed to keep my promise that I would be in her classroom this year, and not Mia’s.

All this happened in the blink of an eye and by the time I hugged Addie hello I was already believing I would inevitably be known for nothing but failure within the next 24 hours. Addie greeted me with very real tears and a hug, clinging to me for comfort as she told her sad tale of basketball gone wrong and slid her hand into mine, favoring the painful, swollen finger, asking if I thought she would still be able to go to swim practice even though she was hurt. I nodded and somehow managed to get her there on time.

Mia laid on my lap while Emery ran laps in the observation area of Addie’s lesson, growling in anger every time he passed me. Mia couldn’t get comfortable, and my attention was divided three ways. We were all cold and tired, hungry and spent. By the time we got home, tears were flowing and patience ran thin. You were home before us, which helped dissipate some of the tension, but your excitement over the promise of the snow that would come soon reminded me how irritated I was by it. What seemed so beautiful last year seemed poisoned, somehow. It wasn’t even Halloween yet and the prospect of trick or treating in the snow made me want to cry.


To make matters worse, the kitchen was a mess and starting dinner in the middle of it was a recipe for disaster. I must have been a lunatic to entertain the idea of making  Chicken Pot Pie in such conditions. I thought very seriously about nixing my plan and scrambling some eggs instead. After all: eggs are an easy sell for Emery, Addie eats just about anything without complaint, and Mia did not want to eat anything at all, not even the Chicken Pot Pie she has been asking me to make for weeks. But the moment I thought about Mia, I heard her little voice inside my mind saying Don’t make a pie crust promise. They’re easy to make and easy to break). Mia may not have wanted to eat the chicken pot pie, but she would definitely sniff out a broken promise if I didn’t follow through and make one.

So I listened to that voice and duped myself into believing I was acting heroically by marching toward dinner, but I grumbled as I tried to make good on my promise and scolded myself for not being able to do it all better. Things went from bad to worse. A large glass measuring cup slipped out of my hands shattered. It cut me, and everything stopped. I stood at the sink watching the snow start to accumulate while I clutched my hand and called out to you for help. While I waited, it was quiet. The light from inside the kitchen bounced off the glass, and all I could really see was my own reflection.


You came quickly and assessed the damage, then swept up the broken pieces while I stood looking out the window, trying to see beyond the circumstances. My hand was bleeding, and it stung. The clock kept moving, the minute hand moving the moon higher into the sky and amplifying the din of grumbling children who had mixed feelings about the dinner that kept telling me it did not want to get made.

When the broken glass was cleaned up and the kitchen was safe again, you tended to my  wound. It was small, and I was lucky. With a band aid and a kiss, you stood with me by the sink watching flakes of snow quietly fall. That is when you told me the evening reminded you of Snow White.

But I felt nothing like the kindhearted princess who maintained a peaceful disposition despite a bad situation. A very real attack was looming ahead, but she whistled while she went about her business making pies for hungry dwarfs. I was like the evil queen who was driven to madness by the absence of what she expected to see in front of her. The illusion of perfection quarreled with the reality of imperfection for me just as it did for her, and it frustrated my heart. I felt weak.

Instead of admitting I had no strength left, I kept on going. An injured hand made rolling the pie dough out nearly impossible. I tried, and the pie crust broke. I stomped through the kitchen, grumbling and angry, blaming my hurt hand for the problem, angry that the glass sliced me and wondering how the measuring cup slipped out of my hand in the first place.


You rescued me again. You laughed with me about a broken pie crust as we laid pieces of it on top of the pie. I tried in vain to make it look pretty while you tucked it in tight along the edges, snug and secure, and it baked up golden and delicious despite its imperfection.

After all that, we stowed most of it in the fridge anyway. Emery balked at the idea of Chicken Pot Pie, arguing that pie is dessert and chicken is not dessert. (He ate tuna and crackers.) Mia tried to nibble on some toast but ended up going to bed early. Addie enjoyed every bite of her own personal size pie, and I think we ate a scoop of some too before we finally bid adieu to that hard day.


Things were brighter in the morning. The sun peeked its head out, hesitant at first, making sure the blanket of too-early snow had really disappeared before it dared leave the cover of safety.  Before long, it stretched its arms wide and called us out to play. Halloween was lovely: Mia woke up rested and feeling much better; Addie’s finger wasn’t broken after all, and I followed through on the commitment of running her classroom party. After school, we took the Goobies trick or treating with their cousins, sorted through gobs of candy and finally fell into bed exhausted, but thankful. Soon the weekend came, and we gloried in a chance to rest.

We moved slowly in the best possible way, and we were miraculously cooperative and present, all of us engaged in and excited about going on an adventure together. The day was crisp and cool, leaves crunching under our feet and breeze whistling as it joined us for a walk, and we ended up seeing real armor, the kind knights used to wear in battle.


As we talked with the Goobies about what the armor does and how long it took to do the arduous work of putting it on in the first place, I remembered that getting ready for battle was not a spur of the moment choice: it was calculated to perfection, each piece of armor fits together just so, rendering an otherwise vulnerable soldier virtually impenetrable. Anticipating attack was the only real defense against them.

Even so, there are a few weak spots in the armor. It would take some crafty maneuvering for weaponry to find the weak spots, of course, but surely it happened in battle sometimes. As I thought about this, I couldn’t help but reflect on the idea of spiritual armor and the way that Paul implored Christ followers to rely on the strength of the Lord in anticipation of spiritual battles, because those things are sneaky and they attack in the nearly hidden places in us that remain weak and vulnerable. That night in the kitchen last week when everything seemed out of control: it didn’t feel spiritual at the time, but looking back on it I realize it totally was, and pride was my weak spot. It pranced around like a virtue, telling me to sacrifice what everyone else really needed in order to keep up my reputation. My preoccupation with perfection kept me from seeing this, of course, and I went about the evening thinking my actions were admirable and good, even while things spiraled out of control. Thank goodness you were there to rescue me from my prideful self.


Predictably, the Goobies eventually lost interest in the display of armor and got hungry, so we headed to the cafe for a snack. I watched you as you sipped your coffee: equally calm and collected there as you had been sweeping up broken glass and wiping my tears before wrangling a wound up preschooler into bed and splinting a sprained finger. You were suited up and ready before you knew what situations would greet you that day. Your secret is this: you let strength of the Lord to permeate your heart and cover your soul. You humbly focus on the things that really matter instead of giving credence to things that work hard to tempt you away from truth. Your defense gives you peace of mind and freedom of heart to engage in life without worry.

Watching the Goobies happily sipping on plain old water in that beautiful cafe alongside you made me realize just how misguided my motives were the other night. I thought I was valiantly fighting the good fight, but the truth is I was doing it in my own strength, which is why I failed. A heart at rest in the strength of the Lord would have realized that particular battle was not worth fighting. The Goobies would have been perfectly content with scrambled eggs if it meant my heart was present with them. My hand might have avoided getting hurt, and I might even still have my measuring cup. The promise I made to Mia broke apart anyway when the pie crust fell to pieces. Had I been suited up and ready to quell the small attacks, they would not have coalesced into the big one that got the better of me that day.


After our day out at the museum, we headed home and laid out the leftover Chicken Pot Pies for dinner and it felt like a second chance to get things right. The Goobies scrambled for a seat at the table, joy clearly bubbling up within them over the excitement of the day. Emery folded his hands and prayed before we ate, saying Thank you God that we get to do fun stuff with our whole family and that we can eat good food that we like. As always, you glanced at me and smiled after he prayed, and my heart flooded with thankfulness that those Goobies have you as an example of what real strength is: a man who lets the power of God flow through him so he can rise up to meet the challenges of the day with strength and love.

It is Christ in you that is the real hero of this tale.



Chicken Pot Pie (GF/DF/NF)


Chicken Pot Pie is one of those classic comfort foods I thought I would never be able to make for my food allergy family. The idea of making a gluten free version is one thing, but the thought of a dairy free version kept me from trying for far too long. I used Jenny Rosenstrach’s version of Chicken Pot Pie with Sweet Potatoes from her delightful book Dinner: A Love Story as my inspiration, adapting it and adjusting it to meet our allergy requirements. The result? A dish is so delicious that you should go ahead and make it as written even if your family doesn’t have any food allergies at all! This recipe is enough to fill a deep 10″ pie plate plus three 4 inch mini pie plates. If gluten isn’t a problem for you, just use your favorite pie crust recipe instead of this gluten free version below (which is adapted from this recipe).

For the filling
  • 3-4 cups cooked chicken (shredded or cubed)
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 2 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2/3 cup frozen peas
  • 1/4 cup full fat mayonnaise (such as Trader Joe’s)
  • 2 T potato starch (or cornstarch) + 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dry thyme
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
For the crust:
  • 2 1/4 cups Namaste Gluten Free Flour Mix (or mine)
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cold Earth Balance vegan buttery spread cut into small pieces
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup cold water (or more, if the dough is a little dry)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 egg, lightly whisked to coat the crust before baking

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a 10 inch deep dish pie plate with non-stick cooking spray.

Prepare the crust: whisk together the dry ingredients, then using your hands or a pastry cutter, mix the cold buttery spread into the flour until it resembles sand. Whisk together the egg, cold water and the apple cider vinegar; pour it into the dry ingredients and mix until the dough begins to come together. Turn the dough out onto a clean, floured surface and roll it out to about 1/8″ thick.

Move on to the filling: pour the chicken broth into a saucepan. Bring the broth to a boil, then add the diced potatoes, carrots and onions. Let them simmer until softened, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together the potato starch and water. When the veggies are soft, pour the slurry into the hot broth and whisk well. Then, add the mayonnaise, vinegar, thyme, salt and pepper and whisk to combine. Finally, stir in the chicken and the peas.

Pour the filling into the greased pie plate. Then, gently lay the crust on top. Pinch along the sides as you would a fruit pie, then cut to vent. Brush with the lightly whisked egg and bake 30 minutes or until golden.



Life with Littles · Motherhood · Soup · Vegan · What's for Dinner?

No Mistakes In It, and Roasted Carrot and Ginger Soup

“But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead” – Philippians 3:13

Dear Joey,

After weeks on end of so much gray, color finally started to come back. The snow has melted; temperatures are cold but not freezing, and flashes of green wink at me from in between the brown blades of old grass, like Addie flashing me a smile and calling me to come out to play for awhile.

Today I joined her: we rode bikes and drew with sidewalk chalk and drank in the sun even as a cold breeze reminded us it isn’t quite springtime yet.  For a moment I was a little girl again, wind tickling my cheeks while I plucked a handful of sour grass and pretended to be Anne Shirley making a flower crown for Princess Cordelia, her imaginary persona that embodied everything Anne wished she herself was: beautiful, important, and loved.


Anne Shirley didn’t have the luxury of parents to invest in her tender heart. Addie does, but I catch myself wondering if she doubts she is the remarkable girl we know her to be. She asks us all the time: am I beautiful? Important? Loved? She asks it in her own way, of course, and we do our best to answer her in a way she understands. Still, I wonder how much of it is sinking in.

Anne Shirley is the sort of person I wished I was: brave, unabashedly imaginative, and loyal all at once, and in my growing up years I looked up to Anne Shirley as the embodiment of so many things I hoped to become. Of course, she was an awkward, orphaned little girl who feels the sting of injustice at a very early age, but the painful past that marks her as different turns her into I wanted to be: self-confident and outspoken and brave. She stirs the pot and soils her already unpopular name by getting herself into many troublesome situations, and goodness does she have a temper–especially when Gilbert Blythe calls her Carrots. Yikes. But beneath all that trouble is a tender, upright heart.


I was more like Diana Barry, though: Anne’s soft spoken, sensible, rule-following best friend whose life is governed by the rules of propriety. I wanted to be more like adventurous Anne, but alas, I was far more like demure Diana who craves adventure while comfortably wrapped up in the warm confines of convention. Anne is courageous; Diana is scrupulous. No wonder the two became such great friends: bravery without good sense can easily turn reckless, and what good is wisdom without action?  Courage and scruples go hand in hand.

Addie is like Diana too: she errs on the side of too safe, just like I did, and it bothers both of us. It bothers her because she misses out on so much of life and it bothers me because it hurts her. She quietly confesses this in the shadows of her darkened room as she snuggles into the safety of her bed. “I don’t know why it’s so hard for me,” she admits, talking about how difficult it is to be brave. I tell her this: it’s not brave if you’re not scared, which means that she really is brave, in the truest sense. And I let her in on the secret that even people for whom bravery seems easy struggle with stuff too, that trying our best is what counts, and making mistakes in the process is how we learn best. I also tell her all about how Anne Shirley, the brave little girl in one of my favorite books who famously asks, “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” I tell her it’s a question that acknowledges mistakes happen, and also infuses hope into the days to come. I tell her that it reminds me of a verse in Philippians where the brave apostle Paul talks forgetting what has happened in the past and pressing on toward what’s next. We talk about breaking free of the prison mistakes put us in and moving on from them unencumbered.


It is heavy stuff for an 8 year old; heavy stuff for me too. Being able to move on from mistakes is a life skill that I have not mastered yet, but I’m working on it. As it turns out I may have spent childhood being more like Diana, but in adulthood I am finding I am more like Anne than I thought: short-tempered, easily frustrated, overly dramatic. It is the Diana in Addie that makes me see it: she is soft-spoken, uncertain, a little afraid to draw unwanted attention to herself, and it pushes all my buttons, making me a little bit crazy. I find myself losing my temper with Addie because I see the young, insecure girl I used to be staring back at me with soft green eyes, and instead of being patient with her, I get frustrated that she has to sift through the same internal turmoil that I did.

A flared up temper is a flame that spreads fast, and before we know it, I find myself stubbornly fighting with her instead of fighting for her. Tears fall and doors close. In the silence, I remember Addie is tenderly trying to figure out whether what we say is true: that she is beautiful, important, and loved, and my temper is teaching all the wrong things. Admitting I failed this time around, seeking forgiveness, and leaving the mistake behind me does not come naturally to me. I am more apt to wrap the mistakes around my wrist like a bracelets, and their clanging reminds me of all the times I failed to be the person I really want to be, or to invest in the person I really want Addie to become. I am tempted to worry about what comes next and have to remind myself that Jesus said, “[…] don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today” (Matthew 6:34). So I pry off those bracelets and fling them behind me, choosing to throw worry away and focus all my energy toward what comes next. I accept the gift of grace and remind myself to extend that gift to Addie, too. She has so many tomorrows left, and I don’t want her to start any one of them thinking there’s a mistake waiting to greet her there.


I soften as the sun sets. Addie does too. And we whisper apologies along with our hopes for the day waiting on the other side of slumber, thankful that it waits there unsullied by our poor choices and harsh words. We learn together that admitting we were wrong and choosing to try again takes guts and integrity, and the two together are a powerful combination. We agree to leave the wrongs behind us and move toward the promise of a fresh day with courage and scruples, both, and we are better for it.

As it turns out, we are both a little bit more like Anne than perhaps we thought. My girl and I, we have Diana’s good sense, it’s true. But we also have Anne’s gumption. Mistakes will happen, but why worry about them today? And Addie certainly has Anne’s imagination, and I know one day I will look up out of my writing window and see her lazing away a sunny afternoon peering up at the sky, writing stories in her mind about each cloud as they quietly drift by.



Roasted Carrot and Ginger Soup


Joey is a sucker for all things ginger, and has a particular weak spot for carrot-ginger soup. (If it’s on the menu, he will order it.) As it turns out, Addie has a soft spot for this soup too: her face lit up at the first spoonful, and she smiled as if she had just scooped up sunshine. Addie and I have had our difficult moments lately, but this soup reminds me a new season full of fresh starts waiting there for us. Plus, it’s an easy, colorful way to infuse a little color into the dreary dinner hours of winter, when spring seems like an impossible dream. 

  • 2 pounds large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
  • 1 ounce peeled/diced ginger
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 6 cups broth (chicken or vegetable)
  • a few glugs of olive oil, canola oil, or refined coconut oil
  • salt and pepper

First, set the oven to 425 degrees. Next, spread the carrots onto a sheet pan, drizzle them with a few glugs of oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and pop them into the hot oven. Roast them for about 20 minutes, or until fork tender and golden.

Meanwhile, set a large sauce pan over medium heat. Saute the onions in about 2 tablespoons of oil (olive, canola or coconut oil will do); cook them until soft but not browned. Add the ginger, sea salt, and broth. Simmer until the ginger is soft. Add the roasted carrots to the pot. Using an immersion blender, puree until the soup is smooth. (Or, if you don’t have an immersion blender, pour the broth/onion/ginger mixture into a high speed blender, add the roasted carrots, and puree until smooth.)


Cultivating Kindness · Dairy Free · Family Life · Grain Free

Snow Again, Kindness Always,and Double Chocolate Banana Bread

“Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.”

-1 Thessalonians 5:15 (NIRV)

Dear Joey,

The Goobie girls had another Snow Day this week.

They went from cheering for them and luxuriating in the low pressure days at home to groaning at the mere possibility of them. They tire of each other quickly when we are all cooped up inside, stepping on each others’ toes for days on end. They love each other, of course, and they even get along beautifully most of the time, going out of their way to be thoughtful and considerate of each other’s feelings. Lately though–yikes. I wish the snow would melt away so I could send them outside for some much needed space.


Snow days and so much togetherness has given us lots of opportunity to train them on other important life skills, things we harp on all the time but tend to ignore because of lack of time, things like loading the dishwasher after dinner and putting dirty clothes in the hamper every time, things we tell them about extensively, things they know they should do, and things they get very lazy about. Snow days gave us the perfect opportunity to examine the difference between knowing and doing, and how effort bridges the gap between them. Turns out, with so many days at home, dirty laundry left on the floor is the least of my worries: the way they treat each other stinks. Specifically, Addie knows how to use kind words to communicate her need for personal space; Mia knows how to leave Addie alone when she has had her fill of company. (And while we’re circling the point, Emery knows how to push his sisters buttons and nudge them toward hysteria, no matter what the situation.)


Knowing how to use kind words matters little until they make an effort to actually use them. Addie knows how to speak kindly in tense situations, but she rarely does. Mia knows how to leave Addie alone, but she gets in Addie’s face, pleading with her sister to play with her, anger escalating as she does so. They ignore what they know they should do and end up snapping at each other, hurling harsh words and bad feelings over small injuries when they could have put in a little effort to maintain peace. Being stuck inside makes it worse. After last Friday’s snow we braced ourselves for another weekend spend largely inside refereeing the three of them, but we woke up to find a blue sky smiling, like an excited neighborhood friend calling us outside to play after a long, hard illness.


We seized the chance to get outside while we could, so we piled the Goobies into the truck in hopes of airing out the attitudes. In search of adventure, we ended up taking a horse-drawn sleigh ride at a local historical farm and poked around the grounds for a bit, stomping through the snow and dragging our heels at the idea of heading back into the confines of home and the chores that waited for us there. Miraculously, they got along beautifully. (Fresh air and sunshine are miraculous.)


When we finally pulled back into the court, we noticed our driveway was cleared of the previous night’s snow, and we knew instinctively what happened: our neighbor cleared it for us. He was out with his snowblower clearing his own driveway when we pulled out of the court that morning; the lines criss-crossing our own driveway (the kind I now can easily recognize as left by a snowblower and not a shovel) told us right away he cleared our driveway too. We were surprised that anyone would spend extra time out in the cold doing such a loathsome job on a rare beautiful Saturday morning. Whether our driveway is clear or not makes no difference to him, really, but he sacrificed his time and comfort to clear it for us anyway.


It was a kindness we couldn’t ignore. “We ought to bake something and take it over there later,” you said as we lifted the Goobies out of the truck. I agreed. It was the right thing to do, and what a perfect opportunity to show the Goobies what being kind looks like in a practical sense. No, we are not feuding with our neighbor, but I imagine the folks next door are just as tired of winter as we are, so clearing one more driveway was a sacrificial gesture of goodwill indeed. We could not ignore it, so we trooped inside and clicked on the oven and lined up the ingredients for our favorite double chocolate loaf. After it cooled and the afternoon faded into evening, you pulled on your boots and walked back out into the cold and delivered our thanks along with a freshly baked treat.


The Goobies were not on board with this decision. They were pretty peeved the driveway was cleared at all because it foiled their plan to go sledding down the driveway later that afternoon. Parting with their favorite double chocolate banana bread made the whole thing worse. Tears ensued, of course. And complaining. And bad attitudes. I knew that would happen because they are nutty about that chocolatey treat. You got ready to tromp through the snow to deliver it to the neighbors anyway, and I am sure the our children wondered how something that felt unpleasant to them could be a kindness at all.


We want our kids to know how to be kind, but we also want them to practice doing kind things. It is tough for them to actually do what they know they should do (it is hard for us too) because being kind often requires sacrifice. Kids are not born with a natural inclination toward giving up something they really want for themselves (time alone; the sharpest pencil in the cup; the biggest slice of pizza; the top bunk), but they learn to do these things over time–particularly when we help them (force them?) to practice. Giving in to the Goobies’ protests would have been easier than walking it over to the neighbors on a cold winter evening, but we want our children to grow up to be the sort of people who would haul their snow blower next door to clear the driveway for a neighbor without giving it a second thought, people who will gracefully accept kindness from other folks and respond with gratitude and reciprocate the gesture. We want them treat all people with kindness, always.


And so, I wrapped that still-warm chocolatey loaf in wax paper, tied it up with string, and slipped a simple note of thanks on top. The Goobies begged me to make a second loaf that day. I refused, but I did promise to make it again in the coming week. More snow was in the forecast anyway and I knew we would need the oven on again soon enough. Four days later, another round of snow made its way to our doorstep, giving those girls another snow day (and another chance to practice being kind to each other), and an opportunity to make good on my promise. The loaf is not gone yet, but it will not stick around forever (neither will the snow, so I hear), but kindness has staying power. I hope the Goobies choose it always.



Grain Free, Dairy Free Double Chocolate Banana Bread (GF/DF)


It’s no secret my kids love banana bread. This version, though, is different: they actually go a little nutty for it. I can’t blame them. “Banana bread” is almost a misnomer for this loaf because it’s so moist and tender it fools me into thinking I’m eating cake (and really, perhaps that’s a better name for it, but “banana bread” makes  me feel a little less guilty for giving it to them for a snack). While it is based on my more classic gluten free version of banana bread, a few simple swaps make it grain free. In fact, our family actually prefers banana bread made with almond + tapioca starch + coconut flour these days, so I rarely make it with gluten free flour anymore. Do not let the idea of using “substitute” flours make you cringe. I promise this loaf is delicious and distinctly not weird. (How do I know? My picky-about-everything-won’t-eat-anything-remotely-unpalatable six year old pouts when we run out of this stuff.) If this loaf doesn’t convince you that grain free foods can be just as decadent–or perhaps even more decadent–than their grain-based counterparts? Well, I guess you are set in your ways and nothing could convince you. If you don’t like bananas, or are allergic to them, try using pumpkin puree instead (but increase the brown sugar to 3/4 cup and give the batter a taste before baking. If it doesn’t seem sweet enough, adjust accordingly).


3 medium bananas (the riper, the better)

1/2 cup oil (melted and cooled refined coconut oil, canola, or even “vegetable” oil (whatever that is)–as long as it’s neutral tasting, it will do the trick)

1/2 cup packed brown sugar (light or dark–both work well)

1 large egg (or add another 1/4 cup of mashed banana to make an egg-free version)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon vinegar (apple cider or white)

1 cup blanched almond flour

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons tapioca starch

2 1/2 Tablespoons coconut flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 cup chocolate chips (We use Enjoy Life brand)

crystal sprinkles or pure cane sugar, for topping


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Coat a regular loaf pan with nonstick spray (coconut oil spray works great!).

First, let’s talk about the dry ingredients. Scoop and level off the almond flour, tapioca flour and coconut flour and cocoa powder just as you would all-purpose flour. Aerate the flours by stirring them with a spoon before scooping, then scoop and level off just as you would all-purpose flour. This will help prevent the loaf from getting too dense from inadvertently adding too much flour to the batter.) Measure the flours into a medium mixing bowl, followed by the baking soda and salt. Whisk them all together, then set the bowl aside.

Next: bananas: remember, the more little brown spots they have, the sweeter the batter will be. Using a stand mixer, mash the bananas well. Once they are mostly smooth, add the oil and mix on medium high until the bananas and oil have emulsified (smooth and well combined). Then add the egg, brown sugar and vanilla extract. Whisk well for a minute or two, until the mixture is velvety and smooth.

Move on to the dry ingredients: scoop them into the batter gradually, whisking between additions. Scoop and whisk, scoop and whisk, scoop and whisk. With every addition, stir until the flour mixture is moistened. Once all the dry ingredients are added, turn the mixer on high and give it a whirl. 30 seconds or so at this speed should do the trick. Finally, gently stir in the chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into the greased loaf pan. To make it really sparkle, sprinkle the top with crystal sprinkles or pure cane sugar.

Pop the pan into the preheated oven and bake for 45-50 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the pan sit for about 3 minutes, then turn it out onto a cooling rack. Let the loaf cool almost all the way before slicing (if you can wait that long).

Allergy Friendly · Celebrations · desserts · Winter

The Colors of Winter, and Fresh Fruit Torte

Dear Joey,

The view from my writing window is gray this morning. Even what little snow is left outside looks greasy and gray these days: the sad remains of snow flurries that were cause for celebration a couple weeks ago.


I don’t hate the view. Or at least, up until today I haven’t, and I think perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I used to dream about snowy winter weather during the temperate, lavish green ones I took for granted back home in California. The hills are emerald green by now, I imagine, and beanies are more of a fashionable reminder of wintertime, rather than a necessary defense against bitter winds. Bags brimming with oranges and lemons and grapefruits used to show up on our doorstep back home, all gleaned from my Grandparents’ stalwart old trees. Can you imagine the miracle of finding a bag of citrus on our doorstep today? I clearly see Grandma taking a break from all the fruit picking and cradling an afternoon cup of tea in her hands. Its steam swirls in the cool of a January afternoon, and she laughs as we share a short visit. I want to be there with her right now: capturing her laugh in a locket and catching the sweet smell of the backyard blossoms in a bottle, and I want to tuck them into my chest so I can always remember her that way. And I really want that bag of oranges she inevitably sent home with me.


Even so, the mild winters of my youth pale in comparison to the beauty of a quiet winter snow. Flakes bigger than a postage stamp (and sometimes as big as my fist) quietly floated down from a white sky, as if all our Midwestern great grandmothers huddled together over our house and scattered fistfuls of doilies over us as a sort of blessing, welcoming us to the landscape upon which they lived their lives. The flakes accumulated for hours, and when they finally finished, the world outside glistened, just like all those Christmas carols say they do. The trees out front looked like scraggly fingers slipped beneath pure white gloves embroidered with pearls and diamonds, hands held out low as if ready to receive a kiss. The landscape was the purest white; the clouds seemed to wrap us in a hug, and the fire blazed in the hearth every night. It wasn’t Christmas, but it sure was cozy.


That snow eventually melted though, and as it did so I found myself surrounded by a landscape painted in an array of neutrals that I love–gray skies that reminded me of a well-loved sweater; white snow as feather light as freshly whipped butter; grass turned taupe like toasted oatmeal–warm and welcoming; and gray-black tree branches the very same color as faded ink that fill the pages of the oldest books I own–and they tricked me into thinking winter was an old friend. Today, those same colors that seemed comforting and familiar at first are  now so faded they don’t seem like colors at all any more. Cadaverous trees reach out of the pallid landscape, like a corpse stretching its bony gray fingers up out of the grave. Beyond them, the ashen horizon fades into a tired blue sky that reminds me faded blue jeans, rumpled and cast away. Even cheerless colors die a slow death in winter here.


To compensate, my imagination is conjuring up all sorts of colorful glory that keeps me company in these dark days. I catch myself daydreaming about the brightest colors I can imagine, colors like marigold and daffodil, pineapple and emerald; sea foam and cerulean. I want fill the shelves above the hearth with pots of sunflowers and chrysanthemums and daffodils, and I want a happy vase of pink gerbera daisies to smile at me from the kitchen table again. I want to make lemon herb chicken and grilled vegetables; steak kebabs and garden salads and strawberry shortcake. I want bring sunshine into a spaces that haven’t seen it in weeks.


The bright spot of January? Your birthday. Did you notice I didn’t bother asking what kind of birthday cake you wanted this year? I knew what your answer would be (“White cake with white frosting, please!”), but I just couldn’t bear to celebrate with something so devoid of color. Instead, I made a tender yellow sponge cake with luscious custard filling and topped it all with the most resplendent fruits I could find. True: it was inspired by that fruit torte we nearly forgot to serve ten years ago on your birthday (after the shock of having you propose to me in the middle of your birthday party, can you blame me for forgetting to serve cake?), but admittedly I just couldn’t pass up my chance to bring a little color into the house. It was a lovely, delicious break from the hum-drum colors of winter (even though I pictured the truck that carried the fruit coughing gray exhaust as it made its way across the winter wasteland. Sigh. The gray is everywhere.)


I know it won’t last; as these bitter days stretch on in what feels like an eternal curse of cold, I am learning to hope again, to anticipate watching the miracle of life after death unfold before my eyes in a much more obvious way. The impossible truth that life will come again is astounding to my heart, because everything appears too far gone to ever return. I know this isn’t true. I know generation upon generation before me has watched this miracle unfold, but it feels like I am living what I had only learned before. I watch for signs of life every day, learning again what expectant hope feels like. We saw a rabbit skittering through the fence a few days ago. Yesterday I saw a small bird flitting through the trees. The sun pokes holes in the clouds every so often, and it feels glorious and warm as it filters through the living room windows late in the afternoon, and if we’re lucky, we see rainbows dance against the wall, celebrating.  When the clouds part, and the blue sky seems dull at the horizon, but when I lift my eyes above the desolate land and focus my eyes toward the heavens, the sky screams blue like a dazzling aquamarine. And I dreamed about the most beautiful garden last night, lush and green as velvet with a sea of cheerful yellow chrysanthemums dotted with deep blue ones, and it felt like a promise of so much more to come.



Fruit Torte


Ten years ago Joey planned the ultimate surprise proposal when he popped the question on his own birthday. We were so swept up in the romance of it all that we almost forgot to sing happy birthday or serve cake. Marking the anniversary of our engagement with a version our whole family could enjoy felt right, especially since it brought so much color into the middle of a frigid, lackluster landscape. Clearly, this dessert would be amazing served in summertime, when the strawberries are sweeter than candy. But in the dead of winter, the honey glaze helps sweeten them up. I used Nicole from Gluten Free on a Shoestring’s delicious recipe for spongecake as a base (and didn’t alter it, because why fuss when something is so perfect?), so follow the link below to find her recipe. This torte is gluten free, dairy free, and nut free–and delicious enough for my seven year old niece to ask for two slices.

For the Sponge Cake:

Get Nicole’s recipe here.

For the Custard Cream:
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1-15 oz can full fat coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup So Delicious Coco Whip
For the Fresh Fruit Topping
  • 2 kiwis, peeled & sliced
  • 1 pint strawberries (or more, if you prefer), washed and sliced to about 1/4″ thick
  • canned mandarin oranges (6-8 segments or so)
  • 3 Tablespoons honey

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Next, start by preparing the sponge cake. Follow Nicole’s recipe (which you can find here), but bake the batter in a 10″ greased spring form pan for about 20 minutes, or until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan and is golden on top.

Next, make the custard cream. Start by  mixing the sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Next, whisk the egg yolks into the sugar/starch mixture until it loosens up and turns a beautiful buttery yellow.

Then, heat the coconut milk in a small saucepan over high heat, until it bubbles around the rim. Remove the pan from the heat and temper the egg mixture: scoop about a 1/4 cup of the hot milk into the egg mixture and whisk; scoop another 1/4 cup of hot milk into the mixture and whisk again; scoop one more 1/4 cup of hot milk into the egg mixture and whisk again. Then, pour the tempered egg mixture into the pan with the hot coconut milk and whisk to combine. Set the pan over medium heat and cook, whisking as you go. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook for one minute, then remove from the heat again. Add the vanilla, whisk well, and pour the custard into a glass bowl. Cover it with plastic wrap (carefully place it directly onto the custard so a film does not form) and refrigerate until cool (this takes a few hours).

When the custard has cooled, fold 1 cup So Delicious Coco Whip (which is basically a vegan version of Cool Whip).

Once the cake has cooled and the custard cream is ready, spread the custard cream on top of the sponge cake (you can choose whether to remove the sides of the spring form pan yet or not). Top with sliced fruit, then brush a little honey on top to make the cake thing shine.


Baking · Breakfast · Dairy Free · Grain Free

A Quiet Morning, and Grain Free Pumpkin Muffins

Dear Joey,

You were on call this morning, so you were at the hospital before the sun woke up. And I’m so sorry you missed it: a miraculous combination of cooperation and quiet that yielded me a chance to try out a new recipe. After stumbling downstairs with three hungry Goobies in tow; after digging through the freezer to find something other than cereal and bananas to feed their empty bellies; after settling on a combination of sliced strawberries, frozen waffles and hash browns (and letting them each choose whatever they wanted), they were full and happy and ventured off on their own to unleash their creativity before the sun was all the way up. There wasn’t any squabbling or pestering, either–just the happy sounds of happy kids. In the quiet, I was faced with a dilemma: sit and drink my coffee in peace, or take the opportunity to make a batch of muffins?

I chose muffins, of course.


While I was stuck on the couch nursing a silly shoulder problem the past few days, I saw an intriguing idea for making pumpkin muffins without flour, using almond butter and eggs. Admittedly, it didn’t immediately sound amazing because pumpkin and almond don’t always go hand in hand, in my mind. But finding excuses to test recipes for grain free food is a top priority these days, as (again) being just gluten free isn’t cutting it for me. Finding ways to be more grain free is challenging, and often I find myself eating cold leftovers for breakfast, straight out of the fridge, because oatmeal and gluten free banana muffins the Goobies and I usually reach for just don’t agree with me anymore. This is why choosing to use my time to make a batch of muffins was wise. It was either that, or eat cold hamburger soup for breakfast.

About two weeks ago I used my experience and good sense and decided to transform my go-to gluten free banana muffins into grain free version using almond flour, tapioca flour and coconut flour. The result was so delicious, we even think they’re better than the original. Armed with the confidence that comes from delicious successes such as that, I tried that magical combination of alternative flours in these pumpkin muffins too, and wouldn’t you know? It worked again. With their fluffy, crispy outside and tender crumb inside, you wouldn’t know there’s no grain in them. I’m not even kidding. They are not gummy or overly dry either. Perfectly moist and full of flavor.

So no, I didn’t drink my coffee in peace today. By the time I got around to pouring my cup of it, the Goobies were rushing in and out of the back yard, needing jackets and tissues and cups of water and snuggles from taking a tumble. I’m pretty sure half my cup is still sitting in the kitchen somewhere, cold and untouched. I think I’ll go find it. Maybe I’ll snag another muffin as I go, but I’ll make sure to leave plenty for you, too.



Grain Free Pumpkin Muffins


Again, I took the lead from Laura over at Heavenly Homemakers, whose original recipe called for mainly eggs, almond butter and pumpkin (along with some brown sugar and pumpkin spice), but I cut the amount of almond butter in half and added in my magical combination of alternative flours, along with a few other ingredients to make sure the muffins rose properly, and voila–our own new go-to grain free (and dairy free, too!) pumpkin muffin recipe. Thanks for your inspiration, Laura!

  • 1-15 oz. can pure pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup creamy almond butter
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup blanched almond flour
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons tapioca flour
  • 2 Tablespoons coconut flour
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • cinnamon sugar, for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees farenheit. Line a standard muffin tin with muffin cups, or grease very well.

Next, combine all the ingredients together in a stand up mixer; beat until smooth and creamy. Scoop about 1/4 cup of batter into each prepared muffin cup. Sprinkle the tops with cinnamon sugar, then pop the pan into the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Allergy Friendly · Back to School · Family Life · Salads

Just One More Day, and BLT Pasta Salad

4Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
    Remind me that my days are numbered—
    how fleeting my life is.
You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
    My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
    at best, each of us is but a breath.”

-Psalm 39:4-5

Dear Joey,

Just one more day.

That is what I told myself this morning when I climbed out of bed, not really ready to get up to face one more day of summer togetherness. I trudged my way through the dark of the morning, Emery at my heels: hungry and impatient. The thought of getting through one more day of all the Goobies home all day threatened to steal away the last shred of my sanity.  In the harried moments of the morning, it seemed like school couldn’t start fast enough. Just one more day until I can catch my breath.


My parents have been here for a week and it’s been fantastic. They brought my grandparents to see our new home and to explore the area a little before heading off to Iowa to take care of some family business. They leave again today. The Goobies don’t want them to go. Neither do I, really. The Goobies seemed more at ease this past week than they have perhaps all summer long. More themselves, as if they had been holding their breath for weeks, not really sure they would ever see these familiar faces again. But they exhaled this week, finally able to relax a little and weren’t so on edge with each other. But today they had to say goodbye again and their tender little hearts were brave, but broken.


They loaded up the car a few hours ago now after squeezing us tight and calling “See you later!” as they waved goodbye with the sort of cheerful smile that convinced me it might actually be true. We watched them drive away and the Goobies asked me they could please stay for just one more day.


And those words brought me back to reality: their visit and summer vacation both end today. For me, this means the fridge won’t get magically stocked with Earth Balance and pork chops while I’m not looking; the kitchen sink will stay piled high with dirty dishes unless you or I (or both of us) roll up our sleeves and actually scrub them; and the laundry won’t fold itself while I’m making dinner in the other room. (Bless all the Grandparents.) Suddenly it is a school night and gracious me I have to think about packing lunches again. But for them, for the Goobies, this means there is just one more day until school starts and the elusive change we have been talking about for weeks is finally, unavoidably, here.


My breath is catching in my throat as I think about the weight of those words: Just one more day is both a promise and a warning. Hang on, there’s only one more day to endure the aggravation of too much togetherness. And also, Make the most of this moment, because there’s just one more day until it all changes again. Just one more day until the rigors of school supersede laid back summer days, as cooped up and crazy as they became. Just one more day until packing lunches and completing homework and enforcing bedtime make the evenings fly by. Just one more day until fighting over outfits and untangling unkempt hair and forcing breakfast into a tummy that doesn’t want to eat, followed by the frenzied dash toward the door and a too-quick kiss goodbye as they topple out of the car. Just one more day to be slow, to lay low, to just be.  When tomorrow comes, I will breathe deeply and exhale slowly, thankful that we made it to the finish line. When today is gone, my heart will hurt and tears will fall, I will face the first day of school wishing for just one more day. I wonder how the Goobies will feel?


I carried Mia up the stairs this afternoon; it was quiet reading time and she seemed a little off. She wrapped her arms around my neck and I memorized the way it felt to hold her like that.

“I’m going to miss you tomorrow,” I said.

“I’m going to miss you too.”



Isn’t that always the way? We have complained our way through the summer, frustrated with all the togetherness that has made us so sick of each other, but suddenly I want to beg plead and bargain for just one more day with them all here at home with me. I want to finally slow down enough to plop on the floor with Addie and build Legos all afternoon. I want to sit in the shade of the garage and watch them ride bikes until they are red in the face. I want to listen to them squeal with shocked delight as they run through the sprinklers in the heat of the day, and let them lick Popsicles at lunchtime because it’s just too hot to eat. I want to snuggle up with Mia while Emery sleeps in the haze of a lazy afternoon and listen to her read Matilda to me as I fight to stay awake. I want to go swimming at twilight and and pile scoop upon scoop of homemade ice cream high up on a sugar cone, lapping up the frozen treat in the thick evening air right along with them.


Why is it so hard for me to say yes? Why do I say no, or not right now, or maybe later when experience teaches me that later is the place where regret resides? Today is a good day to look back on all the times I said yes, the times I jumped into the water and played in the pool along with them, the afternoons we pulled out the Whirley Pop and made kettle corn and piled onto the couch and snuggled as we watched The Sword in the Stone or Robin Hood; the mornings when I put on my prom dress and played Royal Family with them, pretending to be a queen dripping in gaudy jewelry, only to have them wrap a cape around my neck and declare me a royal superhero. But instead of seeing all the times I said yes, all I seem to see are the times I said no, not now, and maybe later. Later is here now, and time ran out, and I wish I could go back and do it better.


Rain is falling now. Gray clouds stretch farther than my eyes can see, a soft blanket nestling us in the house together for one last afternoon before we throw off the covers and crawl out of bed to face a new school year and all the hassle and joy and change it brings. Tears sting my eyes, and I can’t help it. I can’t go back, I can’t do it all over again, but I can re-frame my thinking. I can remember how painful it is to regret saying no, not now, or maybe later. I can choose to be motivated by the promise and warning of what it feels like to have just one more day, every day.


Addie and Mia have miraculously built Lego’s together all afternoon without snarling at each other over petty little problems. I hardly hear them; but what I hear, I cherish. Their sweet voices cooperative and kind, the soundtrack to my afternoon that romanticizes the idea of having them here with me forever. Tomorrow, the house will be quiet at nap time, and tears fall as I think about it. I will miss them, but I am excited for them too: out there making friends and taking chances and learning, again, what it means to be brave. And while they are there, I will be here, waiting to hear their stories when they pile into the car when the day is done, refreshed and ready to really listen because there are only so many more days left like that out there in the hazy future, and I don’t want to miss even one of them.



BLT Pasta Salad


This salad screams summer to me: a refreshing salad that requires minimal effort. It was born out of the need to ditch my plans for Friday night pizza and throw something together with minimal effort (because spending a summer morning at the farm in the middle of a Midwestern August day does not make me want to come home and work in a hot kitchen). Not too proud to admit to poor planning, I switched gears and declared we would grill Bratwurst and throw together a few cold salads instead and toast to an easy summer dinner. I didn’t come up with the idea for BLT Pasta Salad, but I followed my own intuition when making it for my food allergy family.  The beauty of it is it is flexible (like so many of my recipes!), and can easily be adapted to suit your family’s needs. My family liked it so much they urged me to post it here on Love, Scratch, so that other families could enjoy it too. Cheers to laid back summer dinners!

  • 1-12 oz box Gluten Free Bow Tie Pasta (such as Jovial brand)
  • 1 heart of romaine lettuce, washed and chopped
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, cut in half
  • real bacon bits* (such as Epic brand, which is dairy free. Watch out for lactic acid starter culture in bacon!)
  • 3/4 cup homemade dairy free ranch dressing (or store bought)
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons barbecue sauce (homemade or storebought, more or less to your liking)

* You’ll notice I do not give an exact quantity for bacon bits. This is because you know how much your family likes bacon, and you probably have a grasp on how much they would prefer. I used a 3 oz. package of Epic brand bacon bits for this particular batch, but the salad would have benefited from more. Admittedly, I would have preferred to use a freshly cooked batch of thick cut bacon, crumbled into bits, but I took the easy way out and saved myself the trouble of dealing with hot bacon grease. I humbly suggest you do the same if you make this on a hot summer afternoon.


First, cook the noodles according to package instructions. Drain and rinse the noodles with cold water. (I know most cooks frown upon rinsing pasta, but I rinse mine when I make pasta salad. I like the way it helps the noodles cool down and keeps them from sticking together.) Dump the noodles into a large mixing bowl and let them cool to room temperature, about 10 minutes or so.

While the noodles are cooking, get the bacon ready. If you are cooking a fresh batch of bacon, go ahead and do it now. Then wash and chop the lettuce and tomatoes, and set them aside. Mix together the ranch and barbecue sauce and set that aside too.

When the noodles have cooled off, toss in the tomatoes and bacon bits, and drizzle about half of the dressing on top. Toss it together, making sure the noodles are completely coated with the sauce. Refrigerate until ready to serve, so that the noodles soak up all the flavor of the sauces. When it’s just about time to serve, toss in the lettuce and pour the remaining sauce on top and toss to coat again.